Opioid & Heroin Crisis

I was listening to NPR this morning and Tom Ashcroft’s show: On point. He was talking about the Opioid/Heroin Crisis in America at present. Some of the things said on the show made me want to scream. Over 46,000 people a year die from overdose from these drugs. That is 125 a day, or one every 12 minutes. Most of these people are “normal people” (using their words), which is to say middle class white people, so naturally with it being an election year politically “something must be done”. Prior drug epidemics have not affected this group of people to this extent, and most of the presidential candidates have spoken out on this topic, usually with a more compassionate perspective than in the past. Instead of throw them in jail, they are focusing on treatment. Some candidates have lost loved ones to this scourge and are looking for new approaches to this problem.

But from my point of view, they are focusing on “treatment” options instead of dealing with the cause of the problem. Most of the people who are now addicted to these drugs got started because they were hurt at work or elsewhere, usually a back injury and they went to their doctor, where they received the present standard of care which is muscle relaxants and prescription pain killers (typically Opioids). The underlying spinal injury is not effectively addressed and if they continue to take the Opioids, which they do due to lack of a better option, they end up becoming physiologically addicted to the drugs. Now these unfortunate people have 2 problems instead of one. And even if they are able to overcome their opioid addiction, they are very likely to return to their previous addiction or become addicted to a new pain killer because the pain is still there. Heroin use/abuse typically results from self-medication when the prescription Opioids are unavailable or insufficient for the level of pain or addiction.

If this country’s health care system really wants to stop this problem, I would suggest they do the obvious thing and have these people first see a competent Chiropractor and get adjusted, we are the profession that gets the best results in these cases, and we can prevent the person from ever getting exposed to Opioids in the first place. To treat a spinal subluxation with Opioids is in my opinion futile. A well-known colleague, who worked for years in the Prevea Health System’s administration, the late Dr. Kevin Purcell D.C., once told me “someday soon, for a medical doctor to first recommend anything other than Chiropractic care for a back injury will be considered to be malpractice, the research is showing that there is nothing more effective than our care for this problem.”

So rather than yell at the radio, I thought it better to sit down and write down my thoughts on this topic. But really, what is it that they don’t understand? Masking the pain and hoping things somehow “get better on their own” is just plain crazy. Without correcting the underlying structural injury and misalignment, people will not recover. Sure the body will “heal” the area with scar tissue, but scar tissue is weak and inflexible and will easily re-injure in the same area again and again. This is like expecting a broken bone to heal without a properly set and cast; it will “heal” but with a permanent deformity. In the case of the arm or a nose, it may be visible, in the case of the spine it will most likely be hidden and only visible on X-ray. The ignorance on this topic is actually killing people.

There is an old saying in natural health, “if you are sitting on a handful of tacks, it takes a lot of aspirin to make the pain go away.” Isn’t removing the tacks the better way to go?

Meanwhile, one every 12 minutes.

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